Young dancers granted reprieve

Towson program to continue next year

June 13, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,sun reporter

For more than a quarter-century, students in Towson University's popular children's dance division have been training and performing in concerts and shows.

That tradition will continue through next year, while parents and staff consider potential changes to accommodate the children's and college programs, university officials said last night.

"I think this will allow us to keep the program going, keep the students involved and give us time to just kind of appraise the situation," said Kit Spicer, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section Wednesday misstated the number of students enrolled in dance classes and programs through Towson University's Children's Dance Division. There are up to 600 children involved in the program, said Priscilla Connolly, assistant to the division's director. Incorrect information was provided by a university official.

Last week, parents were presented with a reduced schedule for the children's program, which operates through the college's dance department, because of limited available space for both.

At a meeting last night, Spicer told about 100 parents and children that the program would continue next year as it had in the past.

However, the university has to re-examine the schedule to determine how to accommodate more classes, he said.

"There's just not enough space for everybody," Spicer said.

He said last night that the number of dance majors has been increasing, with 120 expected next year, as well as overall enrollment- approximately 2,000 more university students are expected next fall.

About 300 children ages 3 to 18 are enrolled in 80 weekly dance classes through the program, Spicer said. Students have been invited to dance with visiting companies such as the Moscow Ballet and the Washington Ballet, the program's Web site states.

There are also opportunities for children at all levels of ability as well as those with disabilities, according to the Web site.

Spicer said the school is putting together a task force with parents and staff to "really look at the program and say, `How can we really best support two successful programs that have basically outgrown their space?'"

Several parents expressed concern that the director, Gloria Lang, had stepped down, and faculty have left as well.

"That's the big question - who's going to teach the classes?" asked Rodgers Forge resident Anne Sholander, whose 9- and 14-year-old daughters have danced in the program.

But Spicer said he was not going to answer personnel questions, "not until we really get a good handle on what we're doing."

Still, Sholander said she was somewhat relieved.

"We're feeling very encouraged, very hopeful but a little hesitant," she said. "Without a strong director and the faculty, it's going to be difficult to have the program as it was, what we're used to."

She said the university had initially announced plans to cut and combine classes. "We were left not knowing what was going to happen," Sholander said.

Collette Kokinos of Timonium has had two daughters graduate from the children's division; a third is entering her final year.

"I think some of the changes could be good, working with the university," she said. For example, the highest-level dancers might study and perform with the university troupe. It could give the college students experience working with children, she said.

"The program is, at least for the next year, what the kids expected it to be," said Brian A. Mucha of Northeast Baltimore, whose 15-year-old daughter has danced in the program for seven years. "The kids put in all this hard work on the expectation that the program's still going to be there for them.

"That commitment was pulled from them by the school a week ago. They just returned a lot of it."

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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